Former ISU cheerleader shows no obstacle is too large to overcome

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Lily Watts was a cheerleader at ISU and is now student teaching in Peoria.

Both require a lot of communication which may be easy for you and I, but Lily has had to overcome many obstacles. One of them being that she can’t hear in both ears, but after speaking with her you can tell she’s not letting that slow her down.

“When I was told for the first time that I had to wear hearing aids I said absolutely not,” said Watts who is a deaf education major at ISU.

As a junior in highschool watts found out that she was deaf in both ears.

“That was really hard for me at first, I was in shock, I was in denial, I didn’t want to come out of my room. How could nobody know, how could I not know,” said Watts.

A crushing blow for most, but Lily didn’t let it get to her, she had her eyes set on being a college cheerleader

“It was always a goal of mine, in high school, we went to UCA cheerleading camps and a lot of the camp instructors were ISU cheerleaders and I thought that they were amazing and I wanted to be a UCA instructor as well,” said Watts.

Watts was a cheerleader at ISU for three years and after completing her first goal she set her sights on achieving something else. Teaching kids just like her how to overcome obstacles of their own.

“I student teach at a pre-school, it’s deaf plus which means that deaf plus other disabilities,” said Watts.

Although Lily didn’t find out she was deaf until age 16, doctors believe she lost her hearing at age seven.

Which is why OSF Healthcare Clinical Audiologist Laurel Donaldson says it’s important to make sure your kids get checked.

“Hearing loss is one of the more common issues in children, even from something as simple as ear infections chronically can affect hearing,” said Donaldson.

Donaldson says kids can lose hearing gradually which is probably why Lily didn’t notice until high school.

“In kids we typically pick up on changes that are gradual like that if they start struggling in school, if they have academic difficulties, complaining that they can’t hear their teachers that well or their parents notice at home that they’re not responding to sounds like they used to,” said Donaldson.

Lily wears a cochlear implant in her left ear which boosts her hearing by 90%. A small price to pay to be able to do everything she had hoped, and for the kids she teaches, she has a message that no obstacle is too tall to overcome.

“You’re worth more than just your hearing loss or your disability. if you embrace your hearing loss and pretend that this is a part of who you are nothing else matters,” said Watts.

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